Great Western Loop: Day 162 - 165: Arcata to Shelter Cove
Day 162 Arcata (0miles)
My phone was still acting weird, after i had been hit by the wave that day before. Everytime I tried to charge it, it would raise an alarm and stop the charging process. Without the phone I'm rather blind and so i decided to stay in town, to properly dry everything out and avoid potential malfunctions. This allowed me to visit the nearby Kebab Cafe and to enjoy some non-american food.
Day 163: Arcata to Capetown (30miles)
I had left Arcata early in the morning and hiked south through the quite rundown town. There wasn't anything to see.
The next 10miles to Eureka were on a freeway, but this time I decided to take a bus. Walking on a freeway seems to be "legal" (at least, several police cars didn't stop me the day before), but it's nevertheless really stupid and dangerous.
There's something clearly wrong, when you - as a hiker - have to think about, which highway exit to take...
In Eureka I than followed a Waterfront Trail, which only lasted for 5-6miles and wasn't really nice. At the end, there was a trailhead that reconnected once again with the Freeway. I had to hike along the Freeway for roughly a mile and than jumped on another bus to Loleta.
(Hiking on the Freeway with cars driving 55 mph is scary...)
From here on, I followed some regular roads to Fernbridge and the beautiful historic town of Ferndale. After a short stop and resupply, I hiked on towards the ocean and the small town of Capetown.
With most of the land being private land, I had no idea where to camp and so I planned to hike until dark and than pitch somewhere close to the road. Just before sunset and only a mile from Capetown I found an epic spot for the night. The spot wasn't fenced off and several cars drove by, but no one asked me to leave.
Day 164: Capetown to Petrolia (19miles)
I woke up to a spooky scenery. The hill I had camped on was covered in dense fog, making it hard to see the road just a few yards away. Not wanting to attract more attention from passing cars to my campsite, I quickly packed my stuff and headed into the clouds.
(Fog covering the tiny village of Capetown just ahead of me)
Within an hour the rising sun made the fog slowly disappear and left only a bright sunshine. I climbed up a mountain towards Mendocino Bay and than dropped back to the shoreline, following the road to Petrolia.
Several cars offered me a ride, but the stunning scenery along the coast made it easy to decline those offers.
Around noon I arrived in the remote town of Petrolia. Petrolia has about 200 citizens, a General Store, a food truck that comes 3x a week and a small Community Center. I resupplied for my next section and talked to the owner of the General Store, who had valuable information for me.
I stayed for a few hours and worked on my plan for the next day. The 30mile hike to Shelter Cove follows the shoreline to a National Conservation Area (NCA) and is partly impassable at high tide. Having learned from my experience a few days ago, I now carefully planned how to approach this section. Without an overnight permit for the NCA, I decided to stay just east of the border, leaving only 3-4more miles to hike from Petrolia that day. This put me in a great spot, for a late start on the next day, which would get me to the shore an hour after high tide.
(Mobile library in Petrolia)
While hanging out at Petrolia's Community Center, I also learned that the National Forest Service had just announced to reopen all National Forests not directly affected by current fires. This allows for a potential return to the PCT. Once again, I need to look into the details of the remaining closures and if it actually makes sense to return to the PCT, which is on the exact opposite side of California.
Day 165: It's all about timing (29miles)
I left my campsite in the Mattole River bed at 8am and took the high route for the initial ~6miles to avoid the high tide at 9am.
(Sealions and -elephants on the beach)
Around 10:30am I got to the first 4mile sections that is impassable at high tide. The water had already receeded enough to get through with proper timing, but it was nevertheless challenging. Every now and than a big wave still hit the coast and so I always watched the ocean carefully.
(Had to get around that rock, not knowing what was on the other side...)
(No way out, but manageble knowing that the water was receeding)
(Almost fell over this Sealion, when I ran around a rock to avoid the waves. He "barked" at me and jumped into the water...)
I managed that section quite easily, but still got hit by one wave. For the next 8-9 miles I had a proper trail again that was a little bit off the shore and easy to hike, however I had to be fast. After those 8-9 miles, I had to make it through another very narrow 4mile section, before the high tide returned in the late afternoon.
I was confident about my timing and planning. I would reach the next narrow section about an hour after low-tide and expected to finish it some 3hrs before the next high-tide.
However, just before reaching the next narrow section, I met some other hikers who were truly concerned about my plans. They urged me to go fast and not waste any time and so I did. I actually got a bit nervous, especially fearing that I might get cut off next to a steep cliff, by the incoming water.
The first mile of that section increased my concerns. I had to manage several very narrow spots and expected more difficult spots as time progressed. I therefore hiked as fast as possible over endless amounts of loose rocks, which made hiking really difficult. Always on my mind: Going to fast might result in a twisted ankle, which would put me in a potentially life-threatening position.
Fortunately, this section eventually turned out to be much easier and safer than the first part and after a mile, the beach opened up and became wider by the minute
I eventually made it to Shelter Cove and stayed at the local campground.